Thursday, 9 July 2008

National Indigenous Health Equality Council will help close the gap

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, today welcomed the establishment of the National Indigenous Health Equality Council and the appointment of its members by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, saying this was another milestone towards closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The launch of the National Indigenous Health Equality Council shows that people are again starting to believe that health equality for Indigenous people is not only a basic right, it’s also achievable,” said Commissioner Calma.

“The new Council will play a key role in ensuring Indigenous health policy is informed by evidence and that it’s undertaken in partnership with Indigenous people and with the participation of Indigenous health experts.”

Commissioner Calma also called on the Government to heed the Council’s advice on implementing targets and benchmarks for Indigenous health.

“It is absolutely essential that targets for health equality are embedded in state, territory and federal government policies and programs,” said Commissioner Calma.

“Governments should look to the Council for advice on a fresh national approach to delivering health services that is focused on prevention and primary care if we are to achieve the goal of closing the gap in Indigenous life expectancy.”

Research suggests that addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality will involve no more than a one per cent per annum increase in total health expenditure in Australia over the next 10 years.

“If appropriate funding is committed to Indigenous health now, the expenditure required over time is likely to decline. However, if we wait in the vain hope the problem will solve itself, the cost of closing the gap will just continue to grow,” Commissioner Calma added.

The intention to establish the National Indigenous Health Equality Council was first announced by the Prime Minister at the National Indigenous Health Equality Summit convened in March this year by Commissioner Calma as part of the Close the Gap campaign.

Media contact: Patrick Flynn on (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597